It takes a lot to make me cry, even with the craziness that is going on in my life right now. For a book to make me cry, it has to hit every note. The characters have to be incredibly written, the plot has to be believable, it has to feel real. The Book Thief made me cry so much that I had to stop reading, wipe my tears, and calm down (chanting it's not real, it's not real) before I could pick it up again. This is not a spoiler. The book is set during WWII Germany and is narrated by Death, so you know upfront that there are going to be some depressing moments. Even though it made me cry like a baby, I absolutely loved this book.
The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who Death has seen on a few occasions. Death finds her story abandoned on the ground and decides to keep it with him and relate it to us. The first time Death sees Liesel, she is on a train with her mother and younger brother, who unexpectedly dies. The family gets off the train to bury the boy and one of the gravediggers drops The Gravedigger's Handbook. Liesel snatches the book, even though she can't read, before getting back onto the train. Her mother drops her off with a foster family, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who both love Liesel but show their affection in dramatically different ways. It's Hans who teaches Liesel to read and becomes the greatest influence on her. In her new home Liesel meets a variety of new people, some opposed but afraid of the Nazi's, and some fervent supporters. Her best friend Rudy Steiner is probably my favorite character. He is known in town as an oddball-- he once used charcoal to paint himself black and ran around the track to be like his hero Jesse Owens. This wasn't the best way to blend in. Over the course of a few years, Liesel steals more books and becomes aware of the power of words, what they can do to people. She lives in Nazi Germany but grows to hate it and tries to find ways to defy the injustices that she sees.
Again, this book was incredible. The writing was terrific, the characters were realistic, every part of it was engrossing. The only thing that I can say against it is kind of nit picky-- when Death is telling the story sometimes he would bring up a topic and then say that he is not going to discuss it until later. This got on my nerves a bit. But aside from that very small annoyance, I loved this book and will definitely be reading it again.